Saturday, July 30, 2005

Protest against government exclusion zone

The UK government has been using the current security crisis, ironically produced by its own policies, as a means to bring in new, and many would say, draconian legislation.

One such law is an exclusion order for the area around Parliament. Due to come into effect from 1 August, this exclusion zone prohibits demonstrations, even one-person demonstrations, unless the police expressly permit them.

A large demonstration against the protest exclusion zone is expected on Monday.

Click here for further details and visit Bloggerheads for arguements on why you should be there!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Tension eases in London

With the excellent news about the capture of the suspected bombers tensions eased somewhat on the London transport system today. Londeners were almost back to their usual insular and unfriendly selves - great to see! The record number of bicycles on the road may continue for a while but, at least for now, there seems a prospect of a return to normality. The police (and SAS) clearly had a good day, not only managing to arrest the main targets but also avoiding blood shed. This is no doubt a temporary lull in the ongoing crisis but very welcome nonetheless!

The "war on terror" - a failed and abandoned strategy


Things have been moving quietly but, in what amounts to a spectacular admission of strategic failure, the "war on terror" is being effectively shelved.

It seems the US government has finally realized that their approach is making things worse, not better, and they are in fact losing the 'war'. In a drastic rebranding exercise, out will be the language of war and militarism, in will be talk of integrated strategies to combat violent extremism. The new Strategy Against Violent Extremism - will it be enough to SAVE 'us' and halt the decent into ever more bitter and violent extremism and conflict? Absolutely not, unless it is combined with real action on the issues which, in the words of some, 'fill the swamp'.

The WOT was of course a legal, moral, and strategic confusion from the start. The legal aspects have been the subject of intense criticism for years. The idea that insurgency and terrorism could be defeated during an occupation by instigating military 'solutions' that would lose the hearts and minds of the majority of the population was plainly ludicrous. The loss of support from allies and the collapse of the miliary coalition in Iraq emphasized the flawed approach adopted by the US.

However, the WOT rhetoric served several, very important political purposes: unifying a country in trauma after 9/11 and shoring up the Bush regime, concealing an expansion of militarty and economic imperialism under the guise of national security imperative, and providing a underpinning of support to the Israeli state at the expense of the Palestinians.

While extremely useful for domestic consumption, the problem was that the strategy in execution was inherently flawed and guaranteed to polarise global public opinion and garner support for armed resistance, in all its manifestations. Baghdad, Bagram, Gitmo and Abu Grahib, all gifts on the plate of Al Queda recruitment, extra bonuses in fact on top of the underlying drivers of Palastine, western support for corrupt Arab states, etc.

Of all the unsavoury characters that currently permeate Washington it appears to of been Rumsfeld who made the first moves in announcing this strategic shift. Perhaps he now knows what he pretended was unknowable and knows that some things can never be known - unless you start listening to people who know.

One of the many who did indeed know some while ago, at least about the military consequences, was Professor Jeffrey Record of the US Army College. A quote from his 2003 report states:

"In the wake of the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. Government declared a global war on terrorism (GWOT). The nature and parameters of that war, however, remain frustratingly unclear. The administration has postulated a multiplicity of enemies, including rogue states; weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators; terrorist organizations of global, regional, and national scope; and terrorism itself. It also seems to have confl ated them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blair is pursuing a dangerous strategy

On Channel 4 news tonight, John Denham, Labour MP and member of the UK parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee, said that Blair was pursuing a dangerous strategy by trying to prevent discussion of the real causes of terrorism. There were many things that could and should be done across government but real debate was being stifled by the governments position that anyone who debates the causes is providing justification.

Credit is due to Mr Denham for raising his head above the parapet but many more people of courage are required if we are going to move this debate forward with the honesty and urgency we all deserve.

UK government tries to block publication of book by Craig Murray

Craig Murray is currently working on a book about his time in the diplomatic service. The book is strongly critical of British goverment policy and attacks the use of intelligence obtained under torture. It now appears the government will try and block its publication.

David Leigh, writing in the The Guardian describes how the British Foreign Office is threatening legal action against the former Uzbek envoy in an effort to suppress the release of the forthcoming book.

This comes after the blocking of key parts of an account of the Iraq war by another of Britain's senior diplomats, former UN ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, in which he calls the US decision to invade "politically illegitimate".

For more details see the main Craig Murray www site.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Opening the box - who forgot Pandora?

Pandora didn't create evil and hatred, she just made it uncontrollable.

"...lifted the lid ­and out flew plagues innumerable, sorrow and mischief for mankind. In terror Pandora clapped the lid down, but too late. One good thing, however, was there ­Hope. It was the only good the casket had held among the many evils, and it remains to this day mankind's sole comfort in misfortune."

There are times of great anger and sadness when humour may be the best way ahead. Not really sure if this is funny anymore....but it should be watched nonetheless!

Click the picture below to start...

Blair forced to admit Iraq links to London attack

In a reversal of his previous position, Tony Blair admitted that his decision to invade of Iraq has acted as a recruiting bonus for terrorist groups. Speaking at a press conference today he was left with little choice. Polls already show that majority of the British people know that to be the case and a new poll published today in the Guardian indicates that nearly eight in 10 Muslims believe Britain's participation in invading Iraq was a factor leading to the bombings.

Quotes from two other of todays reports:

"The British Government and policy makers need to seriously consider how the effects of our foreign policy and the invasion of Iraq have increased the threat posed by terrorists in Britain and around the world.
Both the Chatham House Report and the leaked document by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre have highlighted this."

Mark Fisher, Labor member of Parliament for central Stoke-on-Trent, said Blair was "in complete denial" over the role of the Iraq war in the London bombings.

"Everybody else can see this but we cannot get through to him.... Even those members of our party (who voted for the war) think he's crazy. The Iraq invasion had created "exactly the circumstances in which young Muslim minds can be turned."

Monday, July 25, 2005

International law and suicide bombing - Its the target that counts!

The upholding of international law was enshrined as an important objective (7) by Jack Straw at the start of the UK involvement in the "war on terror", long before the attacks on London. Unfortunately, the last three years have seen this objective progressively eroded by the actions of the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK governments. Never before has the lesson been so clear - the rules governing international actions are there for a purpose. Ignore then and the future will turn round and bite with teeth sharpened by each transgression.

After London 7/7 there is an understandable desire to modify UK law to try and reduce the risk of future attacks. However, in the somewhat fevered debate that is taking place it is essential to keep connected to the bedrock of previous legal precedent. This is especially true in the consideration of suicide attacks.

Attacks willingly undertaken and involving the inevitable death of the attacker are common place throughout the history of conflict. From the refusal to surrender in the face of impossible odds, through to heroic charges into the face of machine guns, ramming your ship or plane into an enemy target. All may be condidered heroic by the side undertaking the action and particularly unsettling and terrifying by the side on the receiving end.

But are these actions necessarily illegal under international law. Absolutely not as an interesting discussion of suicide attacks in the invasion of Iraq makes clear!

What makes attacks illegal and/or defines them as an act as a war crime or act of terrorism is firstly, the intended target, secondly, exactly how the attack is caried out, and thirdly, whether a state of war actually exists. If we follow the rather contorted and localized logic of the US governments "war-on-terror" then the events witnessed over the last few weeks may well be considered as acts of war but illegal, nonetheless, due to the deliberate targeting of civilians. Luckily the British government has not bought into the distortion on international law in such a whole hearted way as the US and was careful to describe the London attacks as crimes and not as acts of war. This is not to say that a state of war does not exist in Iraq or in other parts of the world, but at the moment at least, the organisational link between the fragmented Iraqi resistence and the attacks in London is not clear enough to allow direct attribution.

The definition of terrorism is a confused and politically charged area which has yet to achieve resolution. Terrorism can take place during war or peacetime, be committed by state or non-state actors, by members of official armed forces or adhoc groups or inviduals. It is described with a limited definition in Geneva convention 4, but for a more encompassing definition we need to turn to the recommendations of the UN Secretary General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change.

"any action, in addition to actions already specified by the existing conventions on aspects of terrorism, the Geneva Conventions and Security Council resolution 1566 (2004), that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the purpose of such an act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to door to abstain from doing any act."

This makes it very clear, it is the intended target that defines whether an action is terrorist or not in nature. Terrorism is something that, theoretically, all 'civilized' governments and people are opposed to. However, history says the reality is sadly otherwise. It is all too easy to remember attacks, made by the allies in the second world war, which fall very easily into the definition of terrorism. The concept of 'total war' has been used as an attempted justification but has no legal justification whatsoever. The point of international law is of course to prevent wars becoming total, thereby limiting their impact on people who have no control over their conduct. More recently, the bombing of the hospital in Falluja and some other actions by American forces in Iraq may also be considered as war crimes or acts of terrorism.

At the moment there is a tendency in the press to equate suicide attacks with terrorism and to call for the outlawing of suicide actions. Whilst understandable, such calls are misplaced and fail to understand the history of conflict, the legal basis, or the definition of terrorism. We desperately need the governments of the US and UK to return to a legally acceptable approach to foreign policy and action. The making of UK law must not be allowed to exacerbate the underlying problem.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

British fatalities likely after Eygpt bombing

At least eight British tourists were wounded when car bombs ripped through two hotels and market in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, the British Foreign Office said on Saturday.

"Eight Britons have been injured, but we cannot confirm reports of Britons being killed," a spokeswoman said. "34 of the dead are as yet unidentified. So there could be more difficult news to come," Britain's ambassador to Egypt Derek Plumbly told BBC television. In a later interview it was said that deaths were likely and a "number of Britons" may of died.

Egyptian authorities initialy put the death toll at 75 but this has since increased to 88 with up to 200 wounded. Two Britins are missing.

It is reported that an Al-Qaida-linked militants have claimed responsibility for Egyptian resort attack online.

It says the attack was a response to what it says are the "crimes committed by the forces of international evil," which the statement says "are spilling the blood of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Suspected suicide bomber shot 5 times by police at London tube station

The attacks on london continue
The BBC are reporting a man has been shot at Stockwell Tube station by armed police officers. Passengers were evacuated from a Tube train on the Northern Line station in south London after the incident.

Passenger Mark Whitby told BBC News he had seen an Asian man shot five times by "plain-clothes police officers".

Services on the Victoria and Northern lines have been suspended following a request by the police, London Underground said.

Meanwhile, a group linked to al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the blasts that yesterday targeted London's transport system. The group, Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade, also claimed responsibility for the July 7 bombings which killed 52 people and four suicide bombers.

Their statement is reported as saying:

"Our strikes in the depths of the capital of the British infidels our only a message to other European governments that we will not relent and sit idle before the infidel soldiers will leave the land of the two rivers," said the statement."

The "two rivers" in the statement refer to Iraq's Euphrates and Tigris rivers. On Tuesday, another statement was issued in the name of the same group threatening to launch "a bloody war" on the capitals of European countries that do not remove their troops from Iraq within a month.

Religion and the death cult

A massive and urgent manhunt continues this morning to try and track down the apparent would-be suicide bombers from the London attacks. Assuming the bombs were meant to fully explode, we seem to of had an amazing escape. However, if these 4 desperate men are still on the loose what will they attempt now, knowing full well that they are very likely to be caught within the next few days as CCTV images aid identification?

We are blessed with the usual rhetoric from Blair and also Australian prime minister Howard who is in the UK. Blair.....such a talented orator, think what he could really do if he decided to start telling the truth...

A powerful reminder from Poly Toynbee on the dangers of religion (not just Islam!) and irrational behaviour is published this morning:

"All religions are prone to it, given the right circumstances. How could those who preach the absolute revealed truth of every word of a primitive book not be prone to insanity? There have been sects of killer Christians and indeed the whole of Christendom has been at times bent on wiping out heathens. Jewish zealots in their settlements crazily claim legal rights to land from the Old Testament. Some African Pentecostal churches harbour sects of torturing exorcism and child abuse. Muslims have a very long tradition of jihadist slaughter. Sikhs rose up to stop a play that exposed deformities of abuse within their temples. Buddhism too has its sinister wing. See how far-right evangelicals have kidnapped US politics and warped its secular, liberal founding traditions. Intense belief, incantations, secrecy and all-male rituals breed perversions and danger, abusing women and children and infecting young men with frenzy, no matter what the name of the faith."

As dicussed on R4 this morning, items such as the wisdom of state funding religious schools of any variety are now on the main stream agenda. Maybe a balanced, constructive plan of action may emerge from this awful mess? I should be careful - that sounds like an article of faith...

*The Book of Urizen: The Web of Religion, William Blake, 1794.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

London attack updates....

The London underground rail system, including Shepards Bush station, is being partially evacuated following the new London attacks but it appears that the 'bomb blasts' were probably only caused by detenators.

14:27 Latest reports indicate that parts of the underground system are in fact remaining open as it becomes clearer that no full explosions have occured in the trains.

14:40 Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair says is a "serious incident" and appealed to Londoners to stay where they were and said the transport system was effectively shut down. Large areas around Warren Street, Oval and one of the Shepherd's Bush Tube stations have been cordoned off. However, police in London say they are not treating the situation as "a major incident yet".

14:43 A wounded man, sustected of carrying the bomb at Warren Street is being treated in UCL hospital and guarded by armed police.

15:20 The devices all seem to have been 'empty'. Assuming that there was no release of biological or radiological agents why could this of been?

- was this a practice run that went wrong
- a warning message to the government that the next strike will be real?
- had MI5 managed to disrupt the supply of explosives forcing this ineffective strike?
- was this part of a wider plan?

1525: Armed police arrest a man outside the gates of the Prime Minister's Downing Street offices.

1545: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair says the situation is "fully under control". He says there is no indication of chemical or other attack, and that there has been only one casualty - not a fatality.

London attacks - is it happening again! - update 1

News reports are now indicating 4 incidents - the 3 tube trains mentioned before and a No. 30 bus which exploded near Hackney in east London.

The attack at Warren Street appears to have been an attempted suicide bombing in which only the detonator exploded - spreading panic through the train but causing few if any injuries. No casualties are reported from the bus bomb either.

Little news as yet on the other 2 tube train bombs.

London attacks - is it happening again!

Two weeks since the 7/7/ attacks and it looks very much as if a new series of attacks have ocurred. Around midday attacks appear to have taken place on trains near Warren Street, Oval and Shepherd's Bush stations.

There have been reports of smoke coming from the stations and all three have been evacuated. The whole of the Northern Line has been suspended, along with the Victoria Line and the Hammersmith and City.

As yet there are no reports of any casualties although one hospital, near Warren St station, is reported to have started its emergency plan.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

US/UK coalition forces are largest single cause of Iraqi civilian deaths

While the UK government continues to try and escape its responsibilities over the London attacks, new evidence emerges of the horror that was visited on Iraq by the invasion and occupation. A new report published yesterday provides a detailed analysis of civilian casualties caused by the US/UK invasion of Iraq. "A Dossier on Civilian Casualties in Iraq, 2003-2005" (pdf format) is the first detailed account of all reported non-combatant deaths or injuries during the first two years of the continuing conflict. The report, published by Iraq Body Count in association with Oxford Research Group, is based on comprehensive analysis of over 10,000 media reports published between March 2003 and March 2005.

Some of their main findings:

- 24,865 civilians were reported killed in the first two
years of the war
- Women and children accounted for almost 20% of all
civilian deaths
- US-led forces killed 37% of civilian

- Post-invasion criminal violence accounted for
36% of all deaths
- Anti-occupation forces/insurgents killed 9% of
civilian victims
- Post-invasion, the number of civilians killed was
almost twice as high in year two (11,351) as in year one (6,215)

Speaking at the launch of the report in London yesterday, Professor John Sloboda, FBA, one of the reports authors said: "The ever-mounting Iraqi death toll is the forgotten cost of the decision to go to war in Iraq. On average, 34 ordinary Iraqis have met violent deaths every day since the invasion of March 2003. ....It remains a matter of the gravest concern that, nearly two and half years on, neither the US nor the UK governments have begun to systematically measure the impact of their actions in terms of human lives destroyed."

The IBC report is one of several that have attempted to estimate the impact of the invasion and occupation on Iraqi public health. The only nationally representative mortality survey conducted so far was published in the Lancet in October 2004 and estimated that 98,000 additional deaths had occurred in Iraq as a result of invasion and occupation. This estimate included both civilians and combatants but most deaths reportedly caused by collation forces were women and children.

The IBC do themselves acknowledge that the method they have adopted, whilst having many advantages, "is certain to be an underestimate of the true position, because of gaps in reporting or recording". Therefore, while the IBC report published yesterday is an invaluable contribution to understanding what is happening in Iraq it cannot be assumed to represent the full magnitude of the horror.

Faced with the weight of the evidence, even the BBC was forced yesterday into reporting, probably for the first time in two years (please comment if this is incorrect), that the widespread killing of Iraqi civilians by US forces is a continuing, serious, and barely acknowledged reality. Previous attempts by John Simpson to describe the extent of US killing were blocked, probably after intervention from the Prime Minister's office in Baghdad.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The British people know that Blair bears some of the responsibility for the London attacks

The majority of the British people have not been hoodwinked by the concerted government campaign of misinformation on the probable reasons behind the London bomb attacks. Blair and Straw are desperately attempting to dissociate the increased vulnerability of the UK from their decisions to invade Iraq and whole-heartedly jump into bed with George Bush and the failing "war on terror".

A report published yesterday from The Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House places an establishment stamp of disbelief and incredulity on the goverment's current position. "There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism. It gave a boost to the Al-Qaeda network...caused a major split in the coalition, provided an ideal targeting and training area for Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists...Riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British and US military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure, and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign."

Today, publication of a national survey confirms that, not only do the British people know that Iraq is an important risk factor, but that 64% think the prime minister bears responsibility for the London bombings. 75% of those responding to the questions think there will be further attacks.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Blair's position on the London attacks is "intellectually unsustainable"

With Tony Blair still trying to defend an untenable position on the motivations which led to the London attacks John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, is quoted by the BBC as saying it was "intellectually unsustainable" to say the war in Iraq had not motivated the bombers.

"For as long as Britain remains in occupation of Iraq the terrorist recruiters will have the argument they seek to attract more susceptible young recruits to the bomb team. Britain must withdraw now."

And in an interview for GMTV's Sunday programme, Labour ex-minister Clare Short, who resigned over the Iraq war, said she "had no doubt" the atrocities were linked to Iraq.

"We are implicit in the slaughter of large numbers of civilians in Iraq and supporting a Middle East policy that for the Palestinians creates this sense of double standards - that feeds anger," she said.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Globilized World - Globilized War

In the age of the "war on terror" globilisation redefines the battlefield

It is part and parcel of the modern world that travel, communication, and rumour move with ever increasing speed. People and ideas are more mobile than at any time in history whilst religious and cultural divides often remain determinedly entrenched and immobile. In such a world as ours, the idea of war as an event that occurs between sovereign states with defined frontlines and geographically limited war zones has become outdated. It is no longer possible for a country to conduct military expeditions abroad, enforce its will on another state or group by killing the necessary number of individuals and then to return home, safe in the knowledge that all that bad stuff happened over there - out of sight - and eventually out of mind.

These days, as we have seen, there is a latent price to pay. For the British people the de facto frontline of any modern war starts somewhere between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road. Temporal limits are also ill defined. Just because the UN security council passes a resolution to say that there is a new Iraqi government and the occupation is over doesn't make it so. Just because our government has refused to count the casualties of war won't make them disappear from memory - either in the hearts of their families or the minds of those who would exploit the anger and hatred for their strategic purpose. Just because we choose to ignore the 600 civilians who were killed in the American bombing of Falluja in April 2004 doesn't mean the rest of the world will conveniently do the same. Just because the civilian toll in the much greater devastation of Falluja in November 2004 is currently unknown doesn't mean it no longer happened.

I remember a conversation with a friend, from the town in rural England where I grew up, on the eve of the November assault. Falluja is where all the terrorists are he asserted, bombing it is the right thing to do. What could be said - partial ignorance of the facts - no understanding of the probable outcomes - no where to go... make mine a guiness.

Globilised worlds, globilised wars, no hiding place for peoples of the imperial powers anymore. In 1920 it was all so different of course. Then Britain was occupying Iraq and faced with a resistance movement. Our strategy that time round was an interesting mirror image of that adopted in the current war. Eighty years ago we chose to back the Sunnis, disempowering the Shia majority, and setting in train the resentment that exists today. In 2003/4 we decided to go with the Shia, promoting a wholesale discrimination against the Sunnis in the allocation of power and position. Al Sistani said thanks very much and in return for the power handover promised by early elections halted the Shia uprisings and ended the siege of Najaf in 2004. Fragmentation of the country has of course resulted and the near civil-war state that exist was officially stamped with democratic approval by the holding of elections when the Sunnis were guaranteed not to vote.

Why would the UK and US want this disfunctional and conflict state to be created? By mid 2004 it was clear they could not win the war against a resistance movement of a united Iraq, and with public opinion progressively hardening against the occupation forces (see surveys published by Oxford Research International) they were forced to revisit the history books. Faced with inevitable defeat they adopted the tried and tested formula of colonial powers throught the ages. Divide and Rule! They are still losing of course, as any brief visit to the Brookings Institute or the Iraq coalition Casualty Count will indicate. The elections and the construction of the government were, of course, counter-productive to peace and security and there was a linear increase in average US fatalities between March and June 2005 peaking at about 23 deaths and 150 total casualties per week (higher than the same time last year). The dips before and after this period seem to correlate most closely with rumours of negociation between the US/Iraqi government and elements of the nationalist resistance movement. The Americans will learn - you just have to give them time, a lot of it....

So where does this all leave the victims of the terrible and indefensible attacks on London? Pawns in the grand game, an inevitable and unavoidable price for ensuring energy and economic security for the US and UK? Victims of our failed political system which allows Blair, Straw, and others of their ilk to not just survive, but return renewed to political power? Victims of religious ideology that can be twisted to justify bringing hell to earth? People like you or I, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I would like to leave the last words to someone who has been living with terror so much longer than we have. The British Prime Minister says he wants to understand radicalisation. This would be a good place to start.

"September 11th he sat there, reading the paper. As he reached out for the cup in front of him for a sip of tea, he could vaguely hear the sound of an airplane overhead. It was a bright, fresh day and there was much he had to do but the world suddenly went black - a colossal explosion and then crushed bones under the weight of concrete and iron screams rose up around him men, women and children shards of glass sought out tender, unprotected skin he thought of his family and tried to rise, but something inside of him was broken there was a rising heat and the pungent smell of burning flesh mingled sickeningly with the smoke and the dust and suddenly it was blackness.

New York?
World Trade Center? No.
Falloojeh. An Iraqi home."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Who is in denial over the London attacks?

There is much talk at the moment that the Muslim community, at least pre- 7/7, were in denial about extremism. I suspect that this might be true, but not being part of that community I am not in a position to know. What is evidently clear however is that Blair is in denial, unable and unwilling to bring himself to admit that his decision to invade Iraq was a major factor leading to the London attacks. Below is a short article describing how the friends of one of the bombers perceive his motivation.

LEEDS, England - Friends say a man identified as one of the London bombers had grown increasingly angry over the war in Iraq. And they believe the war ultimately drove him to blow himself up on a subway train last week. Shahzad Tanweer was the 22-year-old son of a Pakistani-born affluent businessman. Friends say he had turned to Islam, the religion of his birth, only a few years ago and had become withdrawn in recent months. One friend notes that Britain is -- quote -- "crying over 50 people, while a hundred people are dying every day in Iraq and Palestine." And he says the bombers are in heaven.
A friend of Tanweer's, Hasib Hussain, was also among the bombers. Acquaintances say Hussain had become more religious two years ago, but had never abandoned his boyhood friends for radicals.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

London 7/7 news feed

Here in London, one week after the terror attacks, events continue to rapidly develop, with unpredictable consequences for life in the captial city and the rest of the UK. On this blog we have refocused our news feed to pick up the latest headlines on this area and will be following developments closely. What will the consequences be for personel liberty and security, inter-racial and inter-faith relationships, British government support for torture and extraordinary rendition, global foreign policy and Blair himself?

Solidarity gathering in London this Sunday

London Solidarity Gathering, 2pm, Sunday 17th July, Russell square

Jointly organised by Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain. This event is to be held in solidarity with the families of the dead and injured and in opposition to the racism and Islamophobia which have resulted since Thursday's attacks.

(Corrected 15/07/05 - Apologies for the error in the original title!)

The evil within!

By Armando Iannucci writing in the Telegraph

A Deeply Sensitive Political Correspondent writes... There is a home-grown danger among us that few have detected. Its name is Charles Kennedy, and his evil is destined to be legion. By breaking the all-party Labour/Tory consensus that the London bombings were nothing to do with Iraq, Kennedy has committed an appalling act of wicked grotesquery unequalled in the annals of civilised political debate and freedom.

Our great and fabulous leader, Tony Blair, has, these past seven days, grimaced the finest look of concern appropriate to senior statesmanhood as only he, a King of Resolve, can. Kennedy, in referring to Blair's own early speeches that talked of a link between terrorism and Iraq, is recalling a Blair who no longer holds, now that He, our Prime Shepherd, has, these past few days, Himself been transformed, butterfly-like, into a brilliant New Being, a shining and magnificent statue of A Man Appalled who bears no relation to the meek and worthless Blair of old.

Is it not time that Charles Kennedy, surely now the most Hated Man in Britain, be stopped by new laws from inflicting his demented beliefs on our politicians, so that ministers and shadow ministers can go about their business in our newspapers and on our televisions unhindered? Apart from that, I think everybody should carry on as normal

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The London bombings were nothing to do with hating our way of life

By John Pilger

In all the coverage of last week's bombing of London, a basic truth is struggling to be heard. It is this: no one doubts the atrocious inhumanity of those who planted the bombs, but no one should also doubt that this has been coming since the day Tony Blair joined George Bush in their bloody invasion and occupation of Iraq. They are "Blair's bombs", and he ought not be allowed to evade culpability with yet another unctuous speech about "our way of life", which his own rapacious violence in other countries has despoiled.

Indeed, the only reliable warning from British intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq was that which predicted a sharp increase in terrorism "with Britain and Britons a target". A House of Commons committee has since verified this warning. Had Blair heeded it instead of conspiring to deceive the nation that Iraq offered a threat the Londoners who died on Thursday might be alive today, along with tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

Three weeks ago, a classified CIA report revealed that the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq had turned that country into a focal point of terrorism. None of the intelligence agencies regarded Iraq as such a flashpoint before the invasion, however tyrannical the regime. On the contrary, in 2003, the CIA reported that Iraq "exported no terrorist threat to his neighbours" and that Saddam Hussein was "implacably hostile to Al-Qaeda".

Blair's and Bush's invasion changed all that. In invading a stricken and defenceless country at the heart of the Islamic and Arab world, their adventure became self-fulfilling; Blair's epic irresponsibility has brought the daily horrors of Iraq home to Britain. For more than a year, he has urged the British to "move on" from Iraq, and last week it seemed that his spinmeisters and good fortune had joined hands. The awarding of the 2012 Olympics to London created the fleeting illusion that all was well, regardless of messy events in a faraway country.

Moreover, the G8 meeting in Scotland and its accompanying "Make Poverty History" campaign and circus of celebrities served as a temporary cover for what is arguably the greatest political scandal of modern times: an illegal, brutal and craven invasion conceived in lies and which, under the system of international law established at Nuremberg, represented a "paramount war crime".

Over the past two weeks, the contrast between the coverage of the G8, its marches and pop concerts, and another "global" event has been striking. The World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul has had virtually no coverage, yet the evidence it has produced, the most damning to date, has been the silent spectre at the Geldoff extravaganzas.

The tribunal is a serious international public inquiry into the invasion and occupation, the kind governments dare not hold. Its expert, eyewitness testimonies, said the author Arundathi Roy, a tribunal jury member, "demonstrate that even those of us who have tried to follow the war closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq." The most shocking was given by Dahr Jamail, one of the best un-embedded reporters working in Iraq. He described how the hospitals of besieged Fallujah had been subjected to an American tactic of collective punishment, with US marines assaulting staff and stopping the wounded entering, and American snipers firing at the doors and windows, and medicines and emergency blood prevented from reaching them. Children, the elderly, were shot dead in front of their families, in cold blood.

Imagine for a moment the same appalling state of affairs imposed on the London hospitals that received the victims of Thursday's bombing. Unimaginable? Well, it happens, in our name, regardless of whether the BBC reports it, which is rare. When will someone ask about this at one of the staged "press conferences" at which Blair is allowed to emote for the cameras stuff about "our values outlast [ing] theirs"? Silence is not journalism. In Fallujah, they know "our values" only too well.

Monday, July 11, 2005

UK and Italian governments hint at partial Iraq withdrawal - strategic folly of the highest order!

Apparently as a result of the the London 7/7 attacks, both the Italian and British governments have let it be known that they are considering a partial withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The day after the attack Prime minister Belusconi is quoted on the 8th July as saying that "We will begin withdrawing 300 men in the month of September". Meanwhile, in the UK a report from the Ministry of Defense was leaked to a Sunday newspaper three days after the attack detailing plans to pull out 5,500 troops in the spring of 2006.

We have gotten used to the crass incompetence and strategic bungling of Blair's government in the conduct of foreign affairs but this just takes the biscuit. It is almost certain London was bombed as a result of the British invasion of Iraq and the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi people that resulted. The perpetrators of the horrific attacks on London almost certainly have clear and specific objectives (and don't let the likes of John Reid and other specialists in blanket rhetoric and propaganda deceive you otherwise). The clearest of these objectives is the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. Therefore you have 2 options as a government: (1) you say that whatever happens you do will never withdraw and try and face down the threat and make further attacks pointless, (2) you decide that further death and destruction is not worth it and make it clear you will conform with the demand and thereby substantially reduce your threat level.

What you must never do is make half-baked hints that you are running scared and are fudging it by partially withdrawing. The clear message is that one more hit may do the job and make you conform fully to the demand. What the British and Italian governments appear to have done is issue an open invitation to the terrorists to strike one more time and move the position from a partial withdrawal to a total withdrawal. Absolutely bloody marvelous!

Of course, it remains possible that the statements and leaks are coded communications to the terrorists, indicators that a full withdrawal is scheduled but cannot be talked in public about due to political considerations. But this seems very unlikely. Meanwhile, the slaughter continues daily in Iraq, a horrific and shocking day in London would be considered fairly mundane in Baghdad. Maybe 60 people died in London on 7/7, we know that 600 civilians died in Falluja in April 2004 alone - both cities affected by bombing - placed on vehicles or dropped from planes - either way your dead.

Monday morning in London

A thought to start the week from Robin Cook:

"So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Blair's war brings bloodshed to the streets of London

With the death toll at 38 and likely to rise, and wounded at around 700, the extent of the human misery caused by the attacks is becoming clearer. Like many other Londoners, due in at the office in city center tomorrow, the days events leave more than a shadow of doubt and apprehension at the thought of stepping onto a tube train or bus. Maybe my long held plans about cycling to work will finally come to fruition. Probably much more dangerous but somehow far less scary right now.

It all seems somewhat dream-like at the moment. What I expected to happen for the last two years finally has and a subdued sense of tragic inevitability, almost deja vu pervades. These feelings no doubt derive from having travelled through Liverpool Street station so many times, idling away some waiting moments by speculating what it would feel like when it happened. A slow motion disaster movie, with a poor script and highly predictable outcome, set in motion in March 2003, has finally reached its all to obvious climax - or so we hope...

When the dust settles, the blood is washed away, and the political rhetoric quietens down, the real debates on causes and strategies for future prevention can begin. This will be a key time and lets hope a real opportunity for calm reflection on recent security and foreign policy mistakes. Real and horrific threats need smart, tough and effective strategies to combat them. Will Blair be able to move from his entrenched dishonest and defensive justification of the unjustifiable? Will he be able to admit that he disregarded the advice for British intelligence about the increased risk of terrorism if we invaded Iraq? Unless he does the chances of coming up with something that will work are extremely remote. The US led and UK followed "war on terror" has been a self-defeating, counter-productive and very bloody mistake. It has failed to deliver security and the people of London today have paid a heavy price for Blair's trans-Atlantic obsessions.

Widespread attacks in london leave all transport systems disabled

London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair tells the BBC he knows of "about six explosions", one on a bus and the others related to Underground stations. He says he believes the six affected areas are Edgware Road, King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Russell Square, Aldgate East and Moorgate, but says it is "still a confusing situation". He advises Londoners to "stay where you are - all of London's transport is currently disabled" - he refuses to confirm any fatalities

Multiple attacks on London confirmed

It is now confirmed that multiple attacks on London have taken place. These began at about 08:45 with an attack on the underground, followed up later with attacks on buses (including the one at Tavistock shown above) and trains. Casualties are probably high with the BBC quoting Reuters saying at least 90 casualties at Aldgate station alone. A sad and grim day for the UK continues to unfurl.

'Blast' hits London

Breaking news reports are coming in this morning about a probable attack on the London underground train network around 9:00. Following on the day after the Olympic games announcement this, if it does prove to be a terrorist attack, appears to have been effectively timed for maximum pyschological impact.

Way too early to speculate on motives, methods and impacts. However, as a Londoner who travels to work regularly through the 'targeted' stations and networks it does bring very close to home many of the issues related to discussions on this blog.

It would be extremely interesting to see Blair and Straw's faces this morning and to know what their hearts are telling them. We all know that the risk of terrorist attack on the UK was dramatically increased by their decision to invade Iraq and related policies. If our domestic national secutity has been breached as a result, will they be held politiallcaly accountable for the death and destruction wreaked on the British people?

Craig Murray on the ropes

Craig Murray was interviewed by John Humphreys on BBC Radio 4s "On the Ropes".

Click here to listen to the full interview on drinking, the Foreign Office, Jack Straw, torture and Uzbekistan!